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The press in Spain: the fourth to want and not to be able

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Reading the interview with Pere Ortín in these pages of elDiario.es (Pere Ortín: “You have to stop being pretentious. Make journalism and journalists reflect”, Gumersindo Lafuente, 07/16/2023) and the subsequent reading of his book ‘Dada journalism‘, makes me reflect on the Press and journalists in Spain and, even coinciding with Ortín’s diagnosis – the trade has to reinvent itself if it wants to remain relevant in the 21st century – I understand that his invention, what he calls ‘Dada Journalism’, will contribute to it in the least. On the contrary, I believe that the current generation of journalists and digital entrepreneurs, who resume the tradition of those similar to the last Franco regime and the first transition, such as elDiario.es –and others: Infolibre, Público, etc.–, are a hope of that relevance. To get it back

‘Dada Journalism’ as opposed to ‘Gaga Journalism’, “conventional current journalism, made in the 21st century with 20th century axioms”, which “has collapsed”. Those “axioms” are “3 fossilized ideas inherited from the 20th century”, namely: “current events, news, information”. It is as if we were saying that architecture has collapsed because its three axioms have: foundations, walls, roof. Or the Holy Trinity, for institutional ruin…

In reality, being a journalist is the oldest trade in the world, along with the other: seeing/hearing and counting. And that has no two ways. You can describe it in one way or another, with this medium or with that, in black and white or in color, but it does not change the substance. Everything else, what is attributed to ‘gagá journalism’ –if it seeks the truth, if it has reliable sources or not, even fabricated ones, if the data and facts are incontrovertible or debatable…–, is superstructure. And since this depends on the integrity of the person who exercises the trade, that is the crux of the matter: it is not the trade that has to be reinvented if it wants to remain relevant in the 21st century, but rather the officiants.

For this reason, his appreciable philosophical-journalistic theory –“My proposal of ·#DaDá Journalism is, as DaDa did with the bourgeois art of the 20th century, it is about destabilizing conventional bourgeois journalism from a new creative and constructive effort to create a journalism as attractive and renewed as it is disobedient; so worked[ad]I am solid as well as ambitious; as rebellious and frontier as it is mutant and powerful”–, he is shipwrecked when he puts it into practice: his “Example of a collage chronicle and essay” (p. 191 et seq. of ‘Dada Journalism’), on Hong Kong, is no different from a commendable travelogue for a teenager with creative itching. Very far from any new journalism, like that American New Journalism of the 60s and 70s that passionated readers by doing journalism with the techniques of literature, what we now call, in book format, a non-fiction novel.

The short, short time of glory

The problem, then, is the officiant. An old problem, by the way, that we dragged from those prehistoric (democratic) times when everything was ‘national’, from the Catholic Church to journalism: since the dictatorship of General-Enésimo. It is not strange that the leading media in this country are the sports newspaper Marca and the ‘heart’ weekly ¡Hola!. It responds to the lack of credibility that the Spanish press drags: if Real Madrid puts Barça 5-0, there are five Real Madrid goals and if Mrs. Preysler separates from Mr. Vargas Llosa, it is that each one has gone to take winds on their own; everything else, it is possible that it is or it is possible that it is not.

A brief look at the evolution of the press and journalists since July 18, not the past but the ancestor, clearly explains it to us without a doubt.

The current official statistics, somewhat optimistic, say that a 40.6% of Spaniards read daily press of general information daily or almost, however very far from the enlightened European countries, although thanks to the Digital media Spain ranks eleventh in Europe, with 77% regular readers. In any case, also distant, fortunately, from those times of the interminable post-incivil war: the newspaper reading rate was 5.7% in 1942; 7% in 1959 and around 8% in 1970. A study of reading habits in the West, from 1964, reveals Spanish misery: 71 newspapers per thousand, the lowest of the 16 countries compared and very far from the previous one, Italy, with 123 per thousand, and light-years from France, the United States, West Germany, Japan and Great Britain, whose sales of copies ranged from 242 to 573 per thousand (IO P 1964, 17, cited by Gunther, Richard; Montero, José Ramón; Wert, José Ignacio, “The Media and Politics in Spain: from Dictatorship to Democracy”, Working Papers num. 176, Institute of Political and Social Sciences, Barcelona, ​​1999).

The reason for this reading misery: This is how Spanish reading tastes evolve: in 1945, information on the Second Great War was of interest to 49.69% of readers; the general, at 17.14% and sports and bullfighting news, at 11.43%. But in 1956, the process of numbing consciences began to bear fruit for the Francoist State: the preferred information was events (18.1%), followed by sports (15.1%) and cinema (13.9%), while general news only attracted 2.9% and national information a grotesque 2.1%, a revealing figure not only of disinterest in common interests but of little, if not nonexistent, credibility that the information manipulated from official instances deserves.

In 1966, political information already interested 28% of readers, but sports and events continue to be the preferred sections for readers, 20 and 14%, respectively (“Study on the mass media in Spain”, IOP, 1964, and “Encuesta sobre lectura de prensa diaria”, Spanish Public Opinion Magazine (REOP), nº 7, 1967, prepared by Francisco Sevillano Calero, in Dictatorship, socialization and political conscience: ideological persuasion and opinion in Spain under Francoism, 1939-1962). So that when the Spaniards were asked, in 1956, about the credibility that their press deserved, while for 33% it was credible and 2% neither knew / nor answered, for 65% it was none… What were they going to think? The same as the readers of the 21st century, who, when asked by the Reuters agency, considered that their press was the least credible in the European Union.

There was, however, a golden age, the aforementioned of those journalist-businessmen, determined that democracy, rather than the monarchy, should succeed dictatorship. In December 2000, 25 years after the ‘biological event’ – as it was said in the late-Franco press to refer to what in my neighborhood was called the ‘candlestick incident’ of the General Shortlegs–, the CIS carried out a survey to find out who was credited by public opinion with the merits of the transition, from zero to those who “contributed nothing” to 10 to those who “contributed a lot”. The press obtained 7.1 points, after the crown, the citizens and the parties and their leaders and ahead of the labor movement, the intellectuals and the student movement, these above 6 points, and, of course, those suspended: the military, with 4.7, and the red lantern, the Catholic Church, with only 4.1 points.

But seven years were enough – the seven-year period of itching (The seven years itch either Temptation lives aboveBilly Wilder, 1955)– to put ourselves in our place: another CIS survey from July 2007 revealed that of 14 professions whose prestige was given to the respondents, journalist was only better than military, and even behind two professions traditionally reviled in the transition, judge and lawyer, and at the opposite end of the most valued, doctor and nurse, and even bricklayer, fo ntanero, policeman and writer…

The Spanish press went from being the so-called ‘fourth power’ to being the fourth wanting and not being able to.

We began the transition with a ‘blue’ press that surrounded the Indian encampment of the democratic press and, after a brief hiatus in the first PSOE governments, we have ended as we began: the crisis and new technologies swept away the vast majority of that press free of spurious interests while the de facto power of bank money replaced the traditional ones – the Movement, the dictatorship, the Church… – and took control of a large part, the important part, of the journalistic companies. Only the digital democratization of the journalistic company prevents not all summer from being blue. I do not know if the inspired creatives of the electoral campaign of the PP have taken into account that, in the end, whitebait palm…

So that the complaints of Sánchez and Iglesias about the lack of objectivity and impartiality of the press, values ​​of “conventional bourgeois journalism” for ‘gagá journalism’, may be better or worse expressed, with more science than viscera, but, like the long-suffering witches, there are, there are.

We will always need journalists like Silvia Intxaurrondo (the hour of 1, TVE-1) that seek the “Truth”, as Ortín writes. Of the others, those who They attack her for dismantling the hoaxes of the PPwith false “data” and “facts”, we have twice half plus one left over.

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Written by Editor TLN

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